In Skidmore, Missouri, in December 2004, Lisa M. Montgomery murdered a pregnant woman and abducted her unborn child. The only woman sentenced to death at the federal level, her execution was scheduled for next Tuesday (19), and her defense team does not dispute her guilt.
But her widely reported case – she will be the first woman to be executed by the federal government since 1953 – has drawn attention to whether the entire life experience of an accused should be factored into her conviction. . Defenders for Montgomery claim she was the victim of sexual abuse and torture that lasted for years and was driven to despair.
In an effort to block the execution on Friday, Montgomery’s lawyers asked the court to declare her incapable, citing severe mental illness, neurological disability and complex trauma. In previous decisions, the Supreme Court has ruled that the execution of a person classified as insane was unconstitutional.
On Monday evening, an Indiana federal judge issued an injunction temporarily suspending the execution, but the US government has already appealed. In a separate decision, a federal court in the District of Columbia also ordered that the execution not proceed until the court has considered a defense claim.
With that, the decision on Montgomery’s execution can only come after the inauguration of new US President Joe Biden, who has already spoken in a way that opposes the death penalty. The Democrat takes command of the country on the 20th.
In the latest cases of people executed for federal crimes, the higher courts of US justice have not been greeted with attempts by defense attorneys to block proceedings and have swiftly overturned lower court rulings that tried to block measurement.
Since the resumption of the federal death penalty last year after a 17-year moratorium, the Trump administration has executed ten people and still plans to execute three more until term expires – Montgomery, 52, is part of.
Lisa Montgomery’s crime is particularly heinous. Before committing it, she told others, including her husband, that she was pregnant, despite being sterile at the time, the Justice Department said in a document submitted to the court.
Using the code name Darlene Fischer, she contacted dog breeder Bobbie Jo Stinnett and said she was interested in purchasing a puppy. When Montgomery went to the kennel, he strangled Stinnett, extracted the fetus, and ran away with him.
The baby survived. In December, around the child’s 16th birthday, Stinnett’s widower Zeb Stinnett sent a message thanking Randy Strong, now sheriff of Nodaway County, Missouri, for what he did for the family there. years. Strong was an investigator at the time; it was he who examined Stinnett’s body after the crime and persuaded Montgomery to admit his guilt.
Strong recalled that shortly after the crime Montgomery showed no remorse. He said he believed his lawyers were not telling the truth about his past and that the case was “a terrible insult” to survivors of sexual violence.
Strong intended to watch Montgomery’s execution, but said he was not allowed to do so due to the pandemic. Even though I can’t be there, “I want to see it happen,” he said.
Montgomery’s defense team portrayed his client as a victim of sexual abuse, a person whose history is proof of the failures of the systems that should have protected her, a person who should not be executed for her crime.
Celebrities like Scarlett Johansson have called on President Donald Trump to commute Montgomery’s sentence. In a call for clemency, his defense team argued that the president now has “the power to send a message to thousands of women victims of rape and child trafficking, showing that their pain matters, that they count, that their life has value “.
According to the defense team, the violence against Montgomery began in early childhood. The first full sentence she uttered was “don’t hit me, it hurts,” her mother told a mitigation specialist years ago, according to a document provided by her lawyers.
As a child, a man raped his half-sister, Diane Mattingly, with Montgomery in the bedroom, Mattingly recalls.
When the state removed Mattingly from the house, Montgomery began to experience frequent sexual violence from his stepfather. A clinical psychologist said in a court statement filed by the defense team that Montgomery’s mother demanded that she “pay the bills” by having sex with technicians, plumbers and other laborers. ‘interview.
When Montgomery recounted the assaults on a cousin who worked for the police, he begged him not to report the abuse because he feared his stepfather would kill her.
Lifelong psychological trauma is not uncommon among those sentenced to death. But Montgomery’s case is unusual, in part because she is one of the few women on death row across the country and because she is the only one to be executed by the federal government.
Women make up 2% of those on death row, but commit around 10% of homicides, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
Dunham compared Montgomery’s case to the man responsible for a shooting massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. After the jury heard numerous arguments about his mental illness, sniper James E. Holmes, who killed 12 people. persons, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Several relatives of Stinnett are planning to attend Montgomery’s execution, according to a statement made to the court by an official with the Bureau of Prisons. [órgão federal que administra o sistema penitenciário americano]. Stinnett’s mother did not respond to requests for comment. But the community where the victim lived, in northeast Missouri, still mourns her death and held a vigil on the date originally scheduled for Montgomery’s execution, before being postponed by a judge.
Among those in attendance was Jena Baumli, a childhood friend of Stinnett’s who recounted when they spent time together in the city park and played Nintendo at her home. “I don’t understand how it went from a premeditated murder to a ‘sorry for Lisa’ case,” she said.
Defenders for Montgomery have said they are not asking for his release, but that Trump change his sentence to life in prison with no possibility of release.
Mattingly said if the president granted his sister mercy, he could strengthen his position on child sex trafficking and abuse. She also said that she herself pleads with Trump as a survivor of sexual abuse.